I don't own Sherlock, obviously.
Reviews are very much appreciated. Can't wait for season 3!
A week after the fall, as they'd called it, and two days after the funeral, John received a text from Lestrade.
+New evidence found. Private meeting - you me big brother - 221b. Ten minutes+
One of John's eyebrows rose. He hadn't thought there was any evidence left to be discovered: they'd found Moriarty's body on the rooftop of St Bart's, gun still in hand in a clear-cut case of suicide; the latest text on Sherlock's phone had explained the meeting -
+Come and play. Bart's Hospital rooftop.
PS. Got something of yours you might want back.+
It had been a strong case for Sherlock's innocence until the Baker Street flat was raided - obviously by some of Moriarty's men posing as police - and tapes of the post-trial tea party discovered. There was no audio with them, and the resulting apparently congenial meeting between the archenemies had quickly gone public. The media were still playing the Richard Brook angle - Sherlock had supposedly forced him to commit suicide before following suit, and the texts from Sherlock's phone were explained away as nothing more than a cover-up. Three of the five expert lip-readers assigned to deciphering the tapes were in the indirect employ of Mycroft Holmes, but nothing conclusive had been found.
John shrugged. He'd find out about the 'new evidence' when Lestrade and Mycroft - the coded 'big brother' from Lestrade's text - showed up in eight minutes.
He filled in the time with some half-hearted tidying, not that it helped much - the week had passed in a frenzy of rage and grief, interspersed with textbook episodes of calm detachment and feelings of unreality, and as a result the flat looked much like it had when Sherlock had torn through it searching for his secret supply.
There was a knock at the door, and two minutes later John was seated in his usual armchair, Mycroft and Lestrade on the couch opposite, a tea service and miniature recorder on the coffee table between them.
There was a moment of silence before John cleared his throat. "Sorry about the mess," he muttered awkwardly. He knew he must look a sight - his eyes were red from weeping, hair unbrushed, dressed in faded jeans and an old red shirt along with the ever-present addition of Sherlock's suit jacket. He'd found it lying over a chair when he arrived home on that fateful day last week, and on an impulse - as some sort of a source of comfort, perhaps - had slipped it on. He was never without it, now.
His therapist would probably term it an unhealthy attachment to the deceased's items, but quite frankly, John didn't care. A part of him clung to it as something left of Sherlock, but most of him - most of his mind and heart and even his body - still couldn't really believe that Sherlock was really gone. He still made two cups of coffee each morning, acting on autopilot; he'd texted Sherlock's number yesterday to ask if they were out of milk again, and had hit the send button before he caught himself; and twice last night he'd woken up, convinced he could hear the phantom strains of chaotic violin playing.
He shook himself out of his thoughts, and found Mycroft and Lestrade staring at him. "Sorry."
Mycroft made an effort to smile. It didn't reach his eyes, sombre with grief as they were. "Quite alright, John."
Lestrade leaned forward, all business despite the wrinkled shirt and slightly reddened eyes. "We found this - " he waved a hand at the recorder - "in Sherlock's coat pocket."
John blinked. He'd assumed it was there to record their conversation. Obviously not.
Of course not, said Sherlock's voice in his head. Look at the dents on the sides, the faded paintwork - that's not a new recorder, and the model isn't one the police use.
"Would've had it sooner," Lestrade continued with a wry grimace, "but Forensics needed to check it over for bombs, trace elements and such. It checked out clean an hour ago, and here we are."
"Right," John said, throat suddenly dry, "right." This recorder, then, would tell them what happened at the fateful rooftop meeting...
Instead of following his first impulse to leap up and switch the recorder on, he clenched his hands on the arms of his chair. His knuckles turned white. "Er - " in what he hoped was a casual voice, "shall we, then?"
Mycroft eyed him knowingly. "But of course, Doctor Watson. Go right ahead. I believe the Forensics team rewound it for us."
John leaned forward slowly, turned the volume up to maximum, and pressed the play button on the recorder.
Mycroft was leaning forward, chin resting on his fist, an intent glint in his eye. Lestrade was slouching, hands in pockets, gaze fixed on the recorder. John lifted a weary hand to scrub at the frown lines on his forehead - not that it would have any effect - and sighed.
The recording began suddenly with the sound of a phone ringing, then the beep of someone picking up, and John started in surprise at the sound of his own voice, tired and groggy.
There was silence for a moment. John remembered being at Bart's, the call coming through to say Mrs Hudson had been shot, Sherlock eyeing him intently...
"What?" It was more an interrogative than a question. "Wh - what happened, is she okay?"
The sound of movement, pacing footsteps. "Oh my God. Right, yes, I'm coming."
A beep as he hung up, Sherlock's immediate question, "What is it?"
"Paramedics. Mrs Hudson's been shot."
Sherlock's reply, which now seemed too quick and almost emotionless, "What? How?"
"Probably one of the - the killers you managed to attract - Jesus..."
At this, Lestrade's eyes flicked to him, but John's eyes were already closed in a wince of remembrance.
"She's dying, Sherlock, let's go."
And Sherlock's reply, so fast it overlapped with the end of his sentence, "You go. I'm busy."
Silence, and John remembered turning back from the door, disbelieving. "Busy?"
"I'm thinking, I need to think."
"You need to - Doesn't she mean anything to you?" John lifted a shaking hand to his mouth, eyes still closed as he listened. "You once half killed a man because he laid a finger on her!"
He remembered Sherlock's frown. "She's my landlady."
And his own words, spoken in fear and anger, confused, not understanding,"She's dying, you - machine!" A harsh breath, and then, "Sod this. Sod this. You stay here, if you want, on your own."
"Alone is what I have, alone protects me." The slightly watery, red-rimmed eyes - John had thought it was from lack of sleep.
There was a soft exhale from Mycroft.
"No," accompanied by the sound of the door being wrenched open, "friends protect people."
And then the door closes and there is silence, the words still hanging in the air. John can imagine Sherlock sitting in the lab, feet up on the bench, just looking at door.
There was a beep, and John doesn't have to imagine what the incoming text said - Sherlock hadn't bothered to delete it.
The sound of feet hitting the floor, footsteps, a rustle as he picked his coat up. The door opening and closing, more footsteps, even and sure and purposeful. John plotted the route in his head - along the hallway, up three flights of stairs, along another hallway, around the corner, and up the tiny cramped stairs to the roof.
There came the sound of the door opening, Sherlock moving out onto the rooftop, and John tensed, nightmare scenarios of ambush and torture running through his mind...
Stayin' Alive came through the recorder. John exchanged surprised glances with the other two men, half lifting a hand to check the recorder for damage -
"Well... here we are at last." Jim Moriarty's slurred words created an instant silence in the flat, the tension thick.
Sherlock's footsteps moved forward.
"You and me, Sherlock; and our problem, the final problem."
Lestrade's brow wrinkled in concentration.
"Stayin' alive..." Moriarty drew the words out, and then, in his high voice, "so boring, isn't it?"
A click, and the music stopped. No sound from Sherlock, yet; just the footsteps, slowly circling.
"It's just - staying." The next words were slightly muffled. "All my life I've been searching for distraction. You were the best distraction and now I don't even have you, because I've beaten you."
John raised a brow. Sherlock wouldn't have liked Moriarty saying that.
"You know what?" Moriarty continued clearly, "In the end it was easy."
Mycroft narrowed his eyes at the insult to Sherlock.
"It was easy." Moriarty repeated. "Now I've got to go back to playing with the ordinary people, and it turns out you're ordinary, just like all of them." A sigh. "Oh, well."
The sound of movement, someone - presumably Moriarty - standing up, moving, perhaps closer to Sherlock.
"Did you almost start to wonder if I was real?" It was a taunt, the smirk clear from his voice. "Did I nearly get ya?"
And then, finally, Sherlock spoke, the words dark. "Richard. Brook."
A grin came through Moriarty's voice again. "Nobody seems to get the joke. But you do."
"Of course." The response was quick.
Sherlock spoke over the top of him, "Rich Brook in German is Reichen Bach - the case that made my name."
Lestrade's eyes widened: he pulled out notebook and pen and scribbled it down.
"Just trying to have some fun." Moriarty's voice was almost regretful.
More movement, and then Moriarty spoke again, the first word drawn out. "Good. You got that too."
John blinks, puzzled - they must have missed something by not having a visual.
Sherlock's voice came in, "Beats like digits. Every beat is a one, every rest is a zero. Binary code. That's why all those assassins tried to save my life." John was picturing the scene in his head, Sherlock gazing out over the city, brows drawn, as he put the pieces together. "It was hidden on me, hidden inside my head, a few simple lines of computer code that could break into any system."
"Told all my clients, "Last one to Sherlock is a sissy.""
"Yes but now that it's up here - " an image of Sherlock seems to hover in the air above them, eyes intent, hand half-raised to his head - "I can use it to alter all the records."His voice rings out, sure and certain, "I can kill Rich Brook and bring back Jim Moriarty."
A second of silence, and then, "No." It was said sadly, almost mournfully by Moriarty. "No, no, no, this is too easy, this is too easy..." He seemed to almost be crying. "There is no key, DOOFUS!"
John jumped at the explosion of sound, the sudden change from woeful to angry. Moriarty seemed to take a moment before he continued, "Those digits are meaningless. They're utterly meaningless. You don't really think a couple of lines of computer code are going to crash the world? I'm disappointed, I'm disappointed in you... ordinary, Sherlock."
"But the rhythm - " Sherlock's voice was pressing, almost urgent.
"Cartesian number one, thank you, Johann Sebastian Bach!"
Again, that moment of silence, and then Sherlock spoke, "But then how did you - "
Moriarty was speaking over top of him, "How did I break into the Bank, to the Tower, to the Prison? Daylight robbery! All it takes are some willing participants."
Mycroft's hand clenched suddenly on the arm of his chair.
"I knew you'd fall for it." Moriarty continued, "That's your weakness. You always want everything to be clever. Now shall we finish the game? One - final - act. Glad you chose a tall building. Nice way to do it."
John's breathing sped up. Oh, Sherlock...
"Do it? Do - do what?"
It hurt, hearing him at such a loss.
"Oh yes, of course." Still half a step behind, but composure somewhat regained now. In a hoarse voice, "My suicide."
"Genius detective proved to be a fraud," it was almost a sing-song, "I read it in the papers, so it must be true. I love newspapers. Fairytales. And pretty Grimm ones too." John flinched at the reminder, not bothering to open his eyes and see the other men's reactions, just concentrating on not losing it completely.
Sherlock was getting rattled now, his speech speeding up, "I can still prove to the police that you created an entirely false identity - "
"Oh, just kill yourself, it's a lot less effort."
Heavy breathing from Sherlock.
"Go on now,"as if Sherlock was a dog to be shooed away, "For me. Pleeaa - "
A flurry of movement, the word please drawn out and high before it cut off suddenly and harsh breathing took its place.
"You're insane." Sherlock was panting.
John leant forward, desperate to know what was happening, but there were no clues from the audio.
"You're just getting that now?" Moriarty sounded genuinely surprised, but the end of the sentence trailed into high pitched... noises of sort, John wasn't sure what to call them. He glanced questioningly at Mycroft, who shrugged and shook his head.
"Okay." Heavy breathing was still coming from the recorder, from Sherlock, Moriarty speaking over top of it. "Let me give you a little extra incentive."
John could almost see the quizzical frown on Sherlock's face.
Moriarty's voice darkened, "Your friends will die if you don't."
"No..." John couldn't stop the whisper of denial. Eyes wide in horror, he looked at Mycroft and Lestrade. He knew what Sherlock would do, what he had done... and now they knew, they knew why he'd done it. Overwhelmed, John covered his face with his hands as the recording continued.
Sherlock's voice, rough, urgent, "John - "
"Not just John. Everyone."
" - Mrs Hudson - "
" - Lestrade - " Lestrade's head came up, eyes disbelieving.
"Three bullets. Three gunmen. Three victims. There's no stopping them now."
John moaned softly, unable to stop the tears from running down his cheeks. Sherlock...
Another flurry of movement."Unless my people see you jump."
Lestrade and Mycroft were unashamedly weeping now too, so intent on the recording that no attempt was being made to wipe the tears away.
"You can have me arrested. You can torture me. You can do anything you like with me. But nothing's going to prevent them from pulling the trigger. Your only three friends in the world will die, unless - "
"Unless I kill myself." Sherlock's voice was dull, heavy, fatigued with the bittersweet realisation of the final plan. "Complete your story."
"You've got to admit that's sexier."
John couldn't stop the growl that emerged from his throat. How dare he -
"And I die in disgrace."
Moriarty sounded a shade impatient now, "Well of course, that's the point of this." And then, in a tone of artful surprise, "Look, you've got an audience now. Off you pop. Go on."
John heaved a shuddering breath.
"I told you how this ends."
Sherlock's breath was coming faster and faster, almost desperate, disbelieving.
"Your death is the only thing that's going to call off the killers. I'm certainly not going to do it."
Sherlock inhaled. The sound is almost a gasp. "Would you give me - one moment, please. One moment of privacy. Please."
John can just see Moriarty thinking about it, and then, "Of course."
He remembered, at the pool - Sherlock holding the gun, Jim's phone going off, "Do you mind if I - ?"
Just turn and turn about, then, this. A show of magnanimity.
Silence - a long silence - and then, unbelievably, Sherlock began to laugh. It was a slow, rich chuckle, dark and wild and stunned at his own realisation, and John could almost see the flash of white teeth and the fierce gleam in his eye.
Moriarty's footsteps came to a halt. "What?" The word is almost a growl, the footsteps turning around, drawing closer again. "What is it? What did I miss?"
The light thud of feet coming off a ledge, landing on the main rooftop again, striding confidently towards Moriarty. "You're not going to do it." Sherlock was quoting Moriarty.
An almost inaudible ah of comprehension from Mycroft.
"So the killers can be called off then, there's a recall code or a word or a number... I don't have to die, if I've got you." The last three words were a copycat sing-song, the familiar cocksure arrogance showing itself for the first time in a long while.
"Oh." Moriarty sounded almost embarrassed, but somehow amused at the same time. "You think you can make me stop the order, you think you can make me do that?"
"Yes. So do you."
"Sherlock, your big brother and all the king's horses couldn't make me do something I don't want to do."
There was a sharp inhale of breath from Mycroft's corner of the couch.
"Yes but I'm not my brother, remember?" Sherlock's voice was low, swift; "I am you. Prepared to do anything. Prepared to burn. Prepared to do what ordinary people won't do. You want me to shake hands with you in Hell, I shall not disappoint you."
"Nah." The response is casual. "You talk big. Nah... you're ordinary. You're ordinary, you're on the side of the angels."
"Oh, I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one - second - that I am one of them."
A tense silence, even the sound of breathing was barely discernible.
"No." Moriarty agreed finally. "You're not." Another pause, and then, "I see. You're not ordinary. No... you're me..." and his voice was unnaturally low, dark, intent. A wheezing breath that might have been a laugh, and his voice returned to its normal pitch. "You're me. Thank you... Sherlock Holmes."
Silence, for a long, long, moment.
"Thank you. Bless you. As long as I'm alive, you can save your friends, you've got a way out..."
Swift inhales from across the room told John that they'd all picked up on it. That line, coupled with the discovery of Moriarty's body... it didn't take a high-functioning sociopath to connect the dots.
"... well good luck with that."
A rush of movement - Sherlock must have thrown himself backward - the echoing sound of a gunshot, a wordless yell of horror... and then the thud of a body falling to the ground, and the heaving, adrenaline-laced breaths of Sherlock.
There was a wordless groan, anguished, shuddering, as the knowledge of what had happened - what Moriarty had done, what he'd forced Sherlock to now do - sunk in. More panting breaths, dizzy, reeling, another groan...
And then the soft, deliberate sound of feet stepping up onto the wide ledge that ringed the rooftop.
John abandoned his armchair to join the other two on the couch, uncaring that it was a show of weakness, needing the support, needing to lend his support to them.
Silence on the recording, but for the harsh panting breaths... and then the beep of a mobile.
John bowed his head with a half-stifled sob. He felt a hand on each shoulder - Mycroft's light, unsure; Lestrade's clenched hard and tight and still shaking with emotion.
John remembered the false alarm with Mrs Hudson, the debilitating panic, jumping out of the taxi, desperate to find Sherlock -
"Sherlock, are you okay?"
"Turn around and walk back the way you came - "
"No, I'm coming in - "
"Just - do - ask I - ask!" the words were harsh, frantic. "Please!"
"Sherlock - " his own voice was confused, worried.
"Okay, look up, I'm on the rooftop."
Silence for the moment that it takes him to look up and see Sherlock on the edge of the roof, silhouetted against the sky, phone raised to his ear - and realise what it is he's seeing, and then, blankly, "Oh... God."
"I - I - I can't come down, so we'll - we'll just have to do it like this."
In the recording, his breaths are coming faster now, "What's going on?"
"An apology." A pause, and then, stilted, "It's all true."
"What?" Swift, disbelieving.
"Everything they said about me... I... invented Moriarty..."
John remembered seeing him turn, looking back over his shoulder, and realised now that he was looking at Moriarty's body.
"Why are you saying this?"
"I'm a fake."
"Sherlock - "
"The newspapers were right all along - " they can hear the tears in his voice now, and John saw again in his mind the tears that dripped from Sherlock's cheeks onto the blue scarf... "I want you to tell Lestrade, I want you to tell Mrs Hudson, and Molly - in fact tell anyone who will listen to you... that I created Moriarty... for my own purposes - "
"Okay shut up, Sherlock, shut up - the first time we met, the first - time - we - met, you knew all about my sister, right - "
"Nobody could be that clever."
A hoarse, surprised laugh, more tears, and then a slight shake of the head, a sniff - "I researched you. Before we met I discovered everything that I could to impress you," there was another sniff, "It was just a trick, just a magic trick."
"No. Stop it." His voice is flat, refusing to believe the lies, unknowing as to why Sherlock is doing this but sure that Moriarty is at the bottom of it all. "Stop it now." He remembered moving forward, intent on stopping this crazy stunt.
"No, stay exactly where you are! Don't move!"
"Alright." Backing up, free arm in the air... it was like being back in Afghanistan, negotiating for the return of a hostage.
Sherlock's breaths were fast and light, his voice desperate, "Keep your eyes fixed on me. Please, will you do this for me?"
"This phone call, it's ah... it's my note. The poor people do, don't they, they leave a note?"
It was so typical of Sherlock to be unsure - though he was usually also uncaring - of social conventions.
John remembered how he shook his head, despairing yet refusing to believe it. "Leave a note when?"
"No - " there were tears in his voice, too, now, "Don't - "
The clatter of the phone hitting the rooftop.
A muffled swearword from John, and then a shouted - screamed - "Sherlock!"
A great rushing of wind, and heavy thud, and the recording ended.
"He will be cleared." Mycroft murmured.
John just nodded, exhausted, and closed his eyes.
There was nothing else to say.